March 21, 2019
by Ann Gadzikowski

Lesson plan

What Is Animation?

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Grade Subject

Using ScratchJr, students will create a sequence of code that causes a figure to move.

(5 minutes)
  • To introduce the lesson, ask students to name their favorite cartoon character.
  • Ask students, "What do you know about how cartoons are made?" Discuss students' prior knowledge. Some may mention that cartoon characters are drawn on paper. Others may mention that computers are used to make cartoons.
  • Explain that a cartoon character may begin as a drawing, but when we make it move we call that "animation." To animate a character means to bring it to life.
  • Explain that when computers are used to animate a character, we are using computer code to make the character move.
  • Announce that today the class will learn how to use code to create an animated cartoon.
(5 minutes)
  • Divide students into pairs and pass out devices.
  • Show students how to turn on the devices and open the ScratchJr app.
(5 minutes)
  • Once the app is open, ask students to describe what they see. There will be a cat near the center of the screen, some blue shapes that look like they might fit together like puzzle pieces, and a white open space at the bottom whether they will create their code.
  • Ask students, "What do you think you'll need to do to make the cat move?"
  • Instruct students to take moving blocks of code onto the workspace. Depending on students' prior experience with coding apps, you may need to explain that the green flag is always the first block in a sequence of code. To start or activate their code, they will need to tap the green flag.
(20 minutes)
  • Invite the pairs of students to take turns using the device until both students have had a turn.
  • If your students have not shared a device before, they will need some ground rules for how to take turns.
  • Initially students may want to try moving and touching all the different icons and blocks of code, just to see what will happen. Once they have had a few minutes to get a little more familiar with what's on the screen, ask students to focus on making the cat do one thing: move to the right and then move to the left.


  • Students who have previous experience with coding can be encouraged to use some of the other categories of programming blocks beyond the blue motion blocks. Other options include sound blocks and triggering blocks.


  • For students who have difficulty understanding how to create a sequence of code using the motion blocks, model how to create a simple sequence of blocks (start, move right, move left, end) and take a screen shot showing the sequence. Print an image of the screen shot and invite the student to copy the model.
(5 minutes)
  • Circulate around the room and observe each pair of students working together.
  • Measure student success by whether or not each student is able to use code to make the cat move.
(5 minutes)
  • Ask students to reflect on their coding experience.
  • Discuss: What motion blocks did you use? How did you figure out what works and what doesn't work?
  • Encourage peer-to-peer feedback by asking, “How did your partner help you learn?”

Ann Gadzikowski is an author and educator with a passion for challenging children to think creatively and critically. Her recent book Robotics for Young Children won the 2018 Midwest Book Award for best educational book. Ann developed her expertise in robotics, computer science, and engineering through her work as early childhood coordinator for Northwestern University’s Center for Talent Development. She has over 25 years of experience as a teacher and director of early childhood programs, and currently serves as the Executive Director of Preschool of the Arts, a Reggio-Emilia inspired school in Madison, Wisconsin.

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